The role of women in ancient societies
Throughout ancient history the role of women in their respective societies has been varied from culture to culture. Some cultures viewed women as equals. Others viewed women as inferior. I will explore the roles these women played in ancient society.
Some of our earliest know ancestors were people know as hunter/gatherers. These individuals were constantly on the move in search of food and supplies. Because of this nomadic lifestyle, each person played an equally vital role in survival, regardless of sex. Men were generally seen as the hunters and women the gatherers. Fast forward to 5900 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia and things began to look much different.
Women’s rights in Mesopotamia were not equal to those of men. However, during early periods women were free to go out to the marketplace, own and sell property, attend to legal matters for their absent men, and engage in business for themselves. Women of higher status, such as priestesses and members of royal families, might learn to read and write and be given considerable administrative authority. Various powerful goddesses were worshipped and in some cities were the primary deities. However, women’s position varied between cities and changed over time.
In Egypt, women enjoyed unusual freedoms that were uncommon during ancient times. Both men and women had the right to own and sell property, make contracts, defend themselves and act as witnesses, marry and divorce, and pursue legal disputes in court. Married couples could own property jointly and protect themselves from divorce by agreeing to marriage contracts, which stipulated the financial obligations of the husband to his wife and children should the marriage end. Women were not allowed to undergo formal scribal training and were barred from holding high office, apart from that of priestess and queen. However, as time progressed and Egyptian society made it’s way into the New Kingdom, women began to play a bigger role in politics. One of the most remarkable reigns in Egypt’s history was led by a woman, Hatshepsut. This was significant in ancient times because a woman yielding such political power was extremely rare.
In Assyrian society, women’s role was less favorable. Although the Assyrians modeled their laws on the code of Hammurabi, they took a much more patriarchal stance and revised the laws accordingly. Now only husbands had the power of divorce, and they were legally permitted to...